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Cisco IOS SSL VPN provides SSL VPN remote-access connectivity from almost any Internet-enabled location using only a web browser that natively supports SSL encryption. This feature allows your company to extend access to its secure enterprise network to any authorized user by providing remote-access connectivity to corporate resources from any Internet-enabled location.


Cisco IOS SSL VPN can also support access from noncorporate-owned machines, including home computers, Internet kiosks, and wireless hot spots. These locations are difficult places to deploy and manage VPN client software and remote configuration required to support IPsec VPN connections.


Figure 1 shows how a mobile worker (the lawyer at the courthouse) can access protected resources from the main office and branch offices. Site-to-site IPsec connectivity between the main and remote sites is unaltered. The mobile worker needs only Internet access and supported software (web browser and operating system) to securely access the corporate network.


Figure 1 Secure SSL VPN Access Model




SSL VPN delivers the following three modes of SSL VPN access:

  • Clientless—Clientless mode provides secure access to private web resources and will provide access to web content. This mode is useful for accessing most content that you would expect to access in a web browser, such as Internet access, databases, and online tools that employ a web interface.
  • Thin Client (port-forwarding Java applet)—Thin client mode extends the capability of the cryptographic functions of the web browser to enable remote access to TCP-based applications such as Post Office Protocol version 3 (POP3), Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), Internet Message Access protocol (IMAP), Telnet, and Secure Shell (SSH).
  • Tunnel Mode—Full tunnel client mode offers extensive application support through its dynamically downloaded Cisco AnyConnect VPN Client (next-generation SSL VPN Client) for SSL VPN. Full tunnel client mode delivers a lightweight, centrally configured and easy-to-support SSL VPN tunneling client that provides network layer access to virtually any application.

SSL VPN application accessibility is somewhat constrained relative to IPsec VPNs; however, SSL-based VPNs provide access to a growing set of common software applications, including web page access, web-enabled services such as file access, e-mail, and TCP-based applications (by way of a downloadable thin-client applet). SSL-based VPN requires slight changes to user workflow because some applications are presented through a web browser interface, not through their native GUI. The advantage for SSL VPN comes from accessibility from almost any Internet-connected system without needing to install additional desktop software.


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